Preamp Shopping - Parasound, ML, McIntosh

I am looking to replace my MiniDSP SHD with an Analog preamp. Trying to keep well under $7k - contenders are Parasound JC2, Mark Levinson No. 5206, McIntosh C49. RE: the JC2 - I know that I would also have to get a DAC and Phono Pre to have "apples to apples" here, but I can get by with my current DAC and phono pre for a bit if I went that route.

Current components are as follows:

  1. Revel F226be speakers
  2. SVS 3000 Micro sub
  3. Parasound A21+ power amp
  4. Denon DCD-1700NE SACD / CD Player
  5. Parasound XRM Phono Preamp
  6. JVC QL-A7 Turntable with AT VM540ML Cart
  7. Streaming with Roon (Tidal and Qobuz) as well as DSD and FLAC files on my NAS

Essentially, I want DSD Capability (SHD does not support DSD), and do NOT want to digitize / sample my analog sources. With MiniDSP, everything is converted to digital @ 96khz. I love the convenience of the SHD, but I am hearing some artifacts / popping at certain bitrates using Roon and feel that I am not getting the most out of my analog sources. Also, I thought I would have a transformative experience with Dirac Live as my listening room is "complicated", but I wind up preferring the sound without Dirac, despite innumerable measurements taken. Same goes for bass management- I thought it was a must, but am loving the sound with my Revel speakers fullrange and the lowpass on the sub itself set to 55hz or so.

The Mark Levinson 5206 pre is especially tempting right now due to the large discounts - however that gives me pause. I see very few reviews on this and very few discussions about it on the forums. Is there a performance / quality / reliability issue with this model? Anyone have experience with it? It is also the most expensive of my current options.

I think I understand both the Parasound JC2 and the McIntosh C49. But I would like to hear if people are having any issues with the DA1 DAC in the C49 with ROON.

Also - I assume that the Phono pre in either the Mark Levinson or the McIntosh will be better than my Parasound XRM. Is that a correct assumption?


Coda 07x...just a superb sounding line stage! It's a ss pre...but has the virtues of a tube sound!

Hello jazzman999 I just bought a new rouge  audio rp7 tube preamp and the sound is awsome. The price was 5000 and matched with a bryston 4b if you want to spend 7500 you can get the rp9 but I could not see spending the extra 2500. You will have to get a phono preamp it dose not come with one. I went with a pro ject tube box DS3B  for 1300 and my linn turntable has come to life. I have a cocktail audio x45 for my digital needs i run a pair of dyn audio special forty speakers and a rel s510 sub. Seriously look at rouge  audio. I hope this helps email me direct if you have any questions thank you Michael 

IMO it's not a good idea to match different SS product(brands) without listening first due to synergy issues. Vacuum tube preamps(different brands) have a very high rate of successfully enhancing a SS amplifier, provided that the preamps output impedance is at least 10x lower than the power amps input impedance. 

I can only speak to the C49 preamp, but one feature (which I'm sure you are aware of) is that the DAC (DA1 in this instance) can be swapped out as technology changes. I have two McIntosh units with both current modular DACs (DA1 and DA2) and they are good sounding DACs.

There is something to be said for synergy between components.  Might the Parasound preamp be a nice match for your current Parasound amp and phono pre?